Simple Ain’t So Simple, Dummy

Where's the DVD player and latte holder in that bad boy?
Where’s the DVD player and latte holder in that bad boy?

Here is a recent discussion I had with my wife:

Me: I want to meet with a nutritionist for my appalling eating habits.  I saw one online today.

Her: Good. Did you call her?

Me: No.  But I think she’s just outside the city.  See, what I did was Google nutritionists who work with addicts and alcoholics, then saw an article the nutritionist was featured in about sugar addiction, then went to her website.  Now, judging by something I think I saw on the site, she might be too far away.  So I went back to Google and was going to start getting other nutritionists, but I want to clarify my search parameters to widen and yet tighten my capture.

Her: Call her and ask where she works instead of guessing.

Me: Yeah, but I think there should be someone downtown with similar qualifications in working with guys like me.  I think that I am going to find the number of someone who knows the offices of the addiction center on College St. and see if they know someone in the area who might be of help then I can get their number and try and book an appointment.

Her: Just call the first nutritionist and ask if she knows someone downtown she can refer.

Me: I know, but if I just…

Her: Call her.

Needless to say, I like to complicate things.  A wee bit.

I have heard other alcoholics go on about this one (of many) infuriating trait we seem to have in common, about how we can see the path to serenity and directness and make a hard right to hard times. I have heard about this characteristic our peeps share that compels us to dive into the deep end filled with sharks and thumb tacks, rather than wade in the clear and bright cool waters. And so it seems that I am certainly not alone in turning the simplest task into some Herculean endeavor that would tax Job’s patience.  I never saw myself in that same category until I got sober and started to look back at just how reckless I was with brevity, simplicity and that thing called “cutting to the chase”.

I have been known to complicate this too.  I'm a wiz with toothpicks as well.
I have been known to complicate this too. I’m a wiz with toothpicks, and you should see me with gumballs.

I recall countless conversations like the one above with my wife – topic just of a different hue – or attempting the easiest of chores and never completing them because I over-thought my way right out of them.  I made doing the dishes or picking up the drycleaning into complex battle maneuvers requiring ninja-like skills to navigate through.  I would respond to a simple “How was your night?” with a convoluted tale that could rival Kevin Spacey’s character’s yarn spinning skills in The Usual Suspects.  I just couldn’t wash and dry the pots or even say “My night was great – yours?” – it was too damn easy.  I had to make those things something that they were not.

And why was that?

Why did I have to make running to get a liter of milk from the store resemble Jeffy’s dotted line escapade from Family Circus?  Why did calling my mother all of a sudden require plans, timelines and written cues?  I mean, why was it that I just couldn’t think in a linear, A to B, no-detour-requested manner that could make life easier?  Why did I make things so complicated?

Good question.

Why????  Answer the question already!   Oh dear Lord just answer the question!
Why???? Sweet swirling onion rings, just answer the question already!  Answer the question!

The first, and most obvious answer, would be that as active alcoholics, we lied.  A lot. I know that when I was active in my alcoholism, I fabricated anything and everything to keep my drinking under wraps, or to find ways to extend my drinking.  I wove tales to keep the boat afloat, so to speak…to allow my untreated alcoholism to flourish or at the very least, survive.  Little tame fibs grew into wilder and mangier lies, which eventually turned feral in my attempt to throw some vestige of verisimilitude into my stories.   And the odd thing is that even in sobriety, I have sometimes found that I would lie, even when the truth would serve me better.  Insanity. So there is this small carry over from my old habits and old way of thinking.

Another reason I spun things into an intricate dance was because of my ego.  My enormous, bloated, labyrinthine ego just loved to show off.  I would mentally transform a doorknob into a Rubik’s Cube to just show others how intelligent I was.  I would question the simplest of things, turn the plainest of observations into some elaborate scheme, or take a one word salutation from a co-worker and extrapolate the bejesus out of it until it was a Dickensian Drama with them as Villain and me as Victim.  It was my ego trying to show everything and everyone up.  The usual result was, of course, that I stumbled.  Badly.  I ended up looking the fool or couldn’t live up to my own expectations.  A squeaky hinge needs grease, not a Senate inquiry and sub-committees.   But my ego loves sub-committees. And it used to love booze as a chaser.

It's just how I roll, man.
It’s just how I roll, man.

I was also fond of keeping busy, and keeping busy kept me away from myself and my emotions.  Keeping busy (drinking, thinking about drinking and recovering from drinking were a good start) was something to alleviate the symptoms of actually being in touch with who I was and what I was…an alcoholic in the grips of the grape.  Keeping things simple was too direct a line to the darkness of my soul.  It put me in the spotlight of recognition and illuminating the illness of my spirit and mind and body.  I couldn’t face the scrutiny of straight truth, so I preferred vodka straight up.  Keep things light yet problematic, Paul.  Keep the wheels within the wheels in motion.  Elaborate rather than condense and distill to basic atoms.  

And with that, I chose the comfort of the discomfort.  The constant state of flux in my life, willfully created by me, served to activate and showcase the chaos, to drive away the purity of life and the simplicity that was always available, but never desired by a drunk like me.  Keeping things simple wasn’t something that worked for me.  I had to keep things in a dramatic state to keep myself distracted and away from the clean lines that would help me gain clarity.  I didn’t want clarity – I wanted the fuzz of the buzz and the cloudiness of a mental state that would keep me in arm’s length of what I was really about – an alcoholic, a frightened man-boy, a stain of a human. Everything was blown up into a Rube Goldberg Machine for safety’s sake.

Oh, like there's an easier way to do this?
Oh, like there’s an easier way to do this?  I’d like to see that, smarty pants.

Knowing all of this hasn’t particularly made my life any simpler.  I mean, it has in many tangible ways, but I still spin my wheels at times.  Keeping things easy peasy takes effort for me.  It means action.  It means I just walk to the corner, drop the letter in the mailbox and mosey right on back home.  It means picking up the phone, punching in a number and speaking to the other person on the line.  It means answering a question honestly and in a straightforward manner.  It’s about taking a pause and dialing it back a few notches over where I automatically would overshoot the mark before speaking or acting.  It might even be pocketing my pride, telling someone that they are right about something, and then moving along, unfazed.  A “what would Forrest Gump do?” mentality perhaps at times suffices. 

And the payoff?

Things go smoother for me.  There are less sparks from friction and conflict – within myself and with others.  I am not encumbered by the weight of bad motives and poor decisions and judgements borne of ego.  I am freer and lighter.  I find more joy in the smaller things in life.  I am more open.  I love and feel love more.  I put others at ease.  I am available for others.

Simple doesn’t mean dumb.  It means serenity.  And I can go for double servings of that…if that’s ok with my nutritionist.

life--keep it simple.preview

30 Comments Add yours

  1. bizi says:

    Great blog post!

    1. Thank you so much! Very much appreciated that you took the time to comment 🙂


  2. zachandclem says:

    Yeah nice one! Also familiar, my partner talks like that. Or he will elaborate on the bumper of the car, when all I want to hear is the name of the model so I can look it up.

    1. I was laughing at your comment there – I totally understand about elaborating about the bumper. I know nothing about cars (let alone make and model – I would say it had 4 wheels) so I would probably go on and on instead of just saying “I don’t know”. Oy vey. Glad you swung by 🙂


  3. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    Love the uncomplicating sign at the end 🙂

    Your wife is wonderful – and when she said call instead of guessing, that was just SO right!! She is a supporter, there is no doubt.

    1. Aw, thanks Noeleen. Yeah, she has put up with enough in the past…I guess these things aren’t so big in nature, and yet she still puts up with me! She is wonderful, thank you…my biggest ally! Thank you for the wonderful comments 🙂

      Love and light,

  4. Dude, you’ve just taken it to the next-level with this piece. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Really LOVE this one. Major delightage. Holy hilarious madman stuff. Okay. I need to gather my thoughts. Figure out which parts to note. I could just dash off some thoughts now, but I’d prefer to over-think things. Turn my comment on your blog post into a grad school thesis project. One I can procrastinate doing into the next dinosaur age. I need coffee, gallons of it! So I’ll be back. As in keep coming.

    1. Don’t waste your hand-crafted, precise, soul soaring words on a little blogetta Pez deposit. Your work is needed at Trudging. And World Peace Amongst The Species Conferences, or fighting space aliens or something in the Indian Jones type realm that you seem fit to do so well. But glad you enjoyed my Tic-Tac capsule here (I must have sweets on the mind as I write this). I never had an opportunity to write a thesis project, let alone a grad school one. I guess one needs to have attended university or college for that. Next on my to do list after reconciling the Russians and the Chinese. I promise. You’ll have to excuse the languid and lackadaisical response – send up some of that joe you’re brewing like a craftsman and hopefully it will jolt me into some jolly good bon mots. Like yours.


      1. Are you kidding? I’m dying over there at Trudge headquarters. I got nothing. Spent the good part of two nights typing things I only wound up deleting. You know what it feels like, Paul? Like I’m one of those tragic Greek figures. But instead of having to roll a rock up a hill only to have it roll back down, or having to empty the ocean with a sea shell that has a hole in it, I have to type then hit delete. For all eternity. Which is a long time. Sure it’s not having a bird eat my liver out every night (my liver has been through enough) but it still sucks.
        So no, coming here is nice. It’s like a vacation. Do you have any candy bars stashed around here? If you do, I BET I can find them.
        Here’s the Rock of Truth I cracked my nuts on–“Keeping things easy peasy takes effort for me.” Oh man. Amen.
        What’s with us? Surrender by definition is the cessation of effort. And me? Well, I have to “work” on that. If I’m still complicating surrender, it makes sense all the other day-to-day things are going to be knotted-up in complex survival schematics.
        It’s one thing, if I’m a newcomer, and I don’t trust if the invisible sponge will be there to bounce off of when I do take the leap. But dude, I’ve been around for a little while. and I know for a fact it’s there. It always is. It’s never failed to be there.
        So what gives?
        A lot of times I just forget. Oh yeah, my life was saved from the jaws of disaster in a miraculous, perfectly coordinated rescue effort.
        So why am I sweating this small bullshit? I think sometimes, in my twisted mind, the problems are too small. You know, to invoke the gods. But from my experience, later sobriety has been all about learning to surrender those smaller things too.
        Really? Makes sense. So screw that.
        Giving up sugar seemed like a good opportunity for some old-fashioned self-reliance. Okay, I’m a freak about alcohol, but I’ve got this. Almost to save face. So I did the half-measured plan. I surrendered it, but also tried as hard as hell to stop on my own. Double-barrelled my solution, see?
        In the words of Lord Humongous. “What a puny plan!”
        And a recipe for chronic relapse.
        The problem is, if I did manage to give up something like sugar, even temporarily, I’d never really be sure if it was through the mercy of the invisible helping hand, or my own efforts. My trust wouldn’t grow. Only when I realized/admitted I was TOTALLY powerless (yes, even over this shit) did the cavalry finally arrive. Because then I KNOW it wasn’t me. And that is the biggest relief. That it’s not up to me. That nothing is.
        Hell, you know me a little, Paul. Can you imagine if any of it was? Up to me. I’d be doomed.
        Big shudder,

  5. losedabooze says:

    So – did you call the nutritionist?

    1. Ummmmmm…no.

      Still looking 🙂


      1. losedabooze says:

        You are sooo bad lol – Just DO IT!!

  6. I woke up to find this gem in my email… yeah, it worked! What a great way to start a glorious Sunday. Second, and I haven’t been able to say this in a while, but… term of the day… VESTIGE OF VERISIMILITUDE! I am hopeful to spring that one on my husband in a natural flow of conversation.

    I would say I don’t know what you’re talking about, but that would deny probably about 50% of my posts. Most of my “day to day life posts” are all about me complicating a situation that could be so much simpler.

    I think, like alcoholism itself, our tendency to think in such complicated ways is simply part and parcel of the disease. So the trick is the awareness, which you clearly exhibit, and then catching ourselves in the moment. Of course this is no simple task (because, for us, what is?!?), but hopefully, with time, it gets easier.

    And since I have less time than you, I have no clue if that hypothesis is even true. I think, like Marius, I am going to sign off here and go meditate on an even better response…

    1. Don’t worry about a “better” response – it’s a lovely thing indeed. And I don’t think time is necessarily a barometer of health (look at your last post there…lol) I don’t have much more in the way of answers than anyone else. If I did I wouldn’t be out in the blogosphere sucking up love, inspiration and insight like yours until I am bloated and can’t hold any more. It’s why I go to meetings, read, listen to others.

      You could be right about this being part and parcel of the illness. Our real problem is between the ears, so needless to say there is some clutter and not so healthy habits going on up there. We’re just here now to examine, declutter and live according to His will. At least that is for me.

      Oh well, it’s a process, isn’t it? Sometimes want it now,now, now…but it’s the process that is the journey.

      Awesome comments as usual, Josie. Thanks 🙂


  7. furtheron says:

    Great post which I can identify so well with. I complicate things like that, yes the old lies, the ego etc. But I also think it is with me to do with perfectionism as I have to think it all through to make sure it’ll be perfect. So course as soon as I start all that fails to come true so why do I over think it all?

    1. Ah yes, Graham – perfectionism! I was thinking about your response earlier, and it had me thinking if it’s something that is similar that plays out, or is another, albeit more extreme, facet of the same thing as complicating things. They can have similar results – avoidance of the the thing we are facing, and frustration. I think with perfectionism, it’s an all-or-nothing things – either I bang 100% right away or I give up for good. The complicating of things is slightly different for me because I am actually getting my hands dirty, but still coming up empty. I don’t know…perhaps I need more thought on this…my responses today are a bit foggy (woke up from a nap, to be honest, so I am not so the weather is “bleh” and affecting me today).

      I am going to think harder on this, my friend. Thanks for bringing it up!


  8. Procrastination as a form of self-sabotage! The lying part makes a lot of sense for me. I had a hard time making decisions when I was drinking. Ideas sounded so good when I was intoxicated only to sound ridiculous when I was sober. I think I got used to delaying decisions.

    1. You might be right about procrastination sneaking in there…but I guess for this alkie it’s the oomph I put behind it. I imagine it’s the things i just don’t want to do that I procrastinate, but the things I want to do like this, I just find a way to complicate. And yet, perhaps there is a reason I am unconsciously sabotaging it – maybe I am not ready for the reality check, or I am just lazy. Who knows.

      Good food for thought. 🙂


  9. Lisa Neumann says:

    New and bright site. Thought for a moment I was on the wrong page. Loving the change. (Not that you asked) The post: For me it has been more of an unlearning than a learning. Eliminating what I held so close to my heart. The cracking open of the ideals I held as absolute truth. Excellent reading Paul. And for what’s it’s worth, I think both sides of the pendulum create the incredible writer that you are.

    How is back to work?

    1. Thanks Lisa for noticing – needed a touch up…ha ha.

      You said more in three lines than I could in 300. You did it. Again. I have to actually meditate on what you said there. Seriously. The paradoxes there – unlearn to learn more. Eliminate to gain. It’s amazing how when we start smashing old ideas how we grow. The longer I am on this journey, the less I know. Good and bad. I think I am at a phase right now where I am holding on to dear life on some things that I know need to go. Painful to let go. Frightening. But I have to trust the process. At least, that is what I tell myself.

      Thank you for the kind and insightful words – you are a blessing indeed.


      P.S things are busy since I got back into the stream of the working world. And to be honest, my poor diet has turned me into a sack of naps. I don’t seem to have any energy to even post here or comment on other people’s blogs much this week. Gotta get healthy again. But other than that, it’s been groovy 🙂

  10. Author Catherine Townsend-Lyon says:

    I’m THINKIN another Great Post…..AND that is why I’ve Nominated your Blog for the*Super Sweet Blogging Award*!! CONGRATS! Because I love your sometimes Humorous Posts 🙂 Come by for all the details on your Nom at You may *Bestow* your “FAV” blogs….and I see your LIST is LONG, the Honor as well! God Bless!

    1. Wow Cat…thank you SO much! That is very kind of you.

      Some pretty damn fine writing out there, indeed. Present company included 🙂

      (This is something sweet that I won’t feel guilty about indulging in!)

      Thank you,


  11. runningonsober says:

    This is so me. I am (was) the queen of complication. Defense-mechanism I think… If I confuse you enough with all this other stuff that doesn’t matter, you give up and leave me alone. Then I can always use that against you later “YOU’RE the one that gave up! Don’t blame me!” Or if I make things confusing, then I can make myself feel better that others don’t understand me because I’m on a whole different level … then the “I’m so alone” feelings kick in loud and clear… Or if I confuse myself even, then I can delude myself into thinking what ever the hell I want myself to think. Hmmm…..

    I’m working on changing all of that. Simplification. Brevity. Action, not words.


    Progress. (not perfection)

    You’re always a joy… thanks, Paul!

    1. I love what you said there – defence mechanism – throw enough webbing at them to confuse them and confound them and they go away. Then you blame the others…genius! Never thought of it that way, to be honest. Very cool you brought it up. You have me thinking about this a bit more now…another layer of the onion peeling away.

      You rock 🙂


  12. Digs says:

    Wow!! I’m laughing and tearful all at once. I can’t tell you how many times I have spent rehearsing and playing out phone calls before (or if) I actually made the call. Pick up, hit buttons and say what you need to say. Hmmm….. never thought about that?! Brilliant!! Your insights are truly remarkable Paul. Thanks.

    1. Aw thanks! I hated the phone. Still do at times. But I am much, much better at it. I did what you did too – and had screaming arguments in my head that never existed! oh dear…what a wicked web we weave…lol.

      Thanks for the lovely comments…ya made me laugh there 🙂


  13. byebyebeer says:

    haha, I can relate so much to the conversation you had with your wife. I can overcomplicate anything, and often do. I’m trying hard to stop myself when someone calls me out on it, typically my husband. Hope you’ll update on how the phone call went and how it goes. Seeing one that specializes in recovery is a simple yet brilliant idea.

    1. I thank you for letting me know I am not alone in this kind of thing…ha ha. God Bless the partners out there who not only tolerate us but call us out too…tough love. 🙂 I will let you know about the phone call as soon as I actually do it! I actually pared it down to a few and will start calling tomorrow. One is the doctor that we had at our treatment center, but she is more of a GP than a nutritionist, but maybe she can just simplify things for me (she is an alcoholic addict too – see her all the time at the meetings)

      I promise to update 🙂

      Thanks BBB…glad you’re here!


  14. I love thispost. It is sometimes easier to over-analyse and complicate things than it is to act – after all if you’d called the nutritionist you might have found yourself committed to actually addressing your diet? Although this may be just the way I am.

    On another matter, Clare Shepherd is a nutritionist who has had a lot of success in helping recovering addicts (especially alcoholics) get their diet and lifestyle back on track having kicked the booze. You can find her website at (it’s not me, honestly!) If you don’t want to commit to the plan itself – or if you want to meet someone face to face – you might at least find her newsletters useful. I found her information on beating sugar cravings really helpful.

    Your wife is very smart.

    Thanks again – Laura

  15. Ugh. I will do ANYTHING to avoid picking up the telephone! And asking questions means I don’t know something, and no one can know that I don’t know everything! Reading the dialog with your wife, I’m saying, “Just pick up the damned phone already, you could’ve had the answer 6 times in the time it took to you to have this conversation!” but I know I’ve had that same stupid conversation and some way stupider a thousand times before.

    I just went back to the suggestion of calling 3 alcoholics each day just to check in, ask how they’re doing, etc. I’ve gotten too far into isolating again (as per norm) and I have to make it a conscious effort to keep friendships alive.

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